Thank you for reading this week's newsletter,
(where applicable) I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving dinner. My family here always goes out when it comes to food-holidays such as these, but just like the previous years, it was more about the left-overs than eating during Thanks Giving. I'm not that much of a food-person (I eat supper, and for the rest of the day I run on caffeine)
This week was a bit "meh" in regards of new stuff. Of course there were a few new phones released, and availability of previously announced ones with some major carriers, and B&N released the NOOK HD and HD+ in the UK, but overall, it seems things calmed down a bit the last few weeks.
A few things did pop up that caught my interest though.
Random Shopper Bot:
Programmer builds bot to buy random stuff from Amazon, takes secret Santa to a whole new level
While not entirely new, but still it spiked my interest.
With all the Halloween stuff my wife got this year, it seemed like we got small packages on a daily basis. At one point I hinted that it must feel like Christmas every day for her, and we even figured it might even be interesting to provide as some form of subscription service.
The person in the article created a "bot" that would just pick up random items from Amazon every month up to a fixed amount, so once a month, this person gets a package from Amazon, not knowing what is in it, so it basically makes it into a gift-system.
Philips Hue Lights:
In living color: Ars reviews the hacker-approved Philips Hue LEDs | Ars Technica
While I knew about them for a while, this week, I ran into a review about these remote-controlled lights. They basically replace your normal light bulb, but are fully configurable. You can set them up to adjust color and brightness throughout the day, which is quite interesting. Of course scheduling them to go on and off at certain times isn't new, but to have them mimic sun rise, sun set automatically, or adjust them depending on the activity, such as a bit darker when watching a movie, funky colors during a party, etc.
The reviewer goes into full depth of what you can do with them, even beyond of what the Android/iOS app is capable of, so it is definitely a worthy read. The pricing is a bit high, but there are other companies entering this field as well, so I'm sure somewhere next year, they will be more affordable.
Today is also Black Friday, the day after Thanks Giving, and stores, physical and digital are loaded with deals.
While there are some exceptions, many of these "deals" are for, while working fine, old-stock items, often already having their replacement on the shelves, however, prices are marked down quite a bit.
I am not that good with crowds, and having to choose between an angry mob of shopping carts or paying a bit more for stuff I need results in paying more for less, so I tend to stay away from Black Friday, but my wife was considering it, even after last year.
DVD Catalyst Newsletter 31 Nov 25 2011 | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Last year, she ended up going to Wal-Mart, and aside from a mob protesters, and of course a people-filled store, there were physical fights over video games, TV's and what not. She didn't get into any issues herself, but it reminded her of a pack of hyena's fighting over that last piece.
If things go well, MovieGallery 2 will be available somewhere this upcoming week. All the functionality is there, and everything seems to run stable on all the devices tested on, so hopefully release will go without a hitch. I'm currently finishing up the guide for it and preparing the application-store-videos and images.
There are still a few small bugs here and there that need ironing out, a few settings that need tweaking etc, but the app itself has all I want in it at this point, and everything works as it should.
I did implement a few things that should make it easier to understand for people as to what it does and how it works, which hopefully will reduce the "it doesn't come with movies" 1-star reviews, but I doubt that it will eliminate it completely.
One thing I am still pondering about is what to do with MovieGallery Free. Do I put in a similar limitation as the current version has, or should I do something else.
I don't want to go the advertising route, partially because many people use an ad-block app of some sorts and because yesterday I spent a couple of minutes with Bad Piggies on a family-member's Droid Razr and the game along was laggy already, and then there were the ads after each level making it nearly unplayable.
I also don't want to go into a majorly crippled version either, however, especially with this update, I've spent an estimated 1000 hours on this update already, which will be a free upgrade for existing MovieGallery users, and that is not including the time spent from creating 1.0 and updating it throughout the year to the version that is currently in the app-stores.
Thankfully, the app-store customers are changing though. Last year, there were a lot of people who complained about free apps including ads and stuff, forums flooded with people asking on how to root and how to block ads, but now the majority seems to understand the time spent on apps, and show appreciation for the developers of these apps.
There will always be people who seem to expect that because they have a smartphone and pay a monthly subscription, that apps should be free for them, or people that simply download pirated versions, but I believe it also depends on the developer themselves.
As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, some companies go overboard in trying to prevent piracy. I will not bring up the "Digital Copy" and "forced Bluray Player updates" mess this time, but when companies make their copy-protection so severe that it actually becomes a nuisance for the paying customers, something is wrong.
The article I linked to last week,
iOS apps hijack Twitter accounts, post false “confessions” of piracy | Ars Technica
shows it can be tricky to come up with something that works. The developers of the app in question are working on a different implementation, but it will always have bugs of some sort, and paying customers are the ones who end up with the embarrassment or the battles to get things to work.
And whatever they come up with, it doesn't matter. If the app is interesting enough, or even if the protection is so good, all it does is provide the people who create pirated versions of apps more of a challenge, but there is always a way, and in some cases, when companies go really crazy with this, such as Ubisoft for example, they even end up using one of the cracks for their software and provide it to paying customers as a "fix" for the issues they are experiencing.
The thing many companies seem to forget is to make it more interesting for customers to pay, rather than to obtain a pirated version. Added value. If you have to choose between software, a game, an app, and when you pay for it, you get to go through an activation process, and you restrict the app to a single computer, or you can download the pirated version and you just copy it over and can use it on more than one computer, or, and this is something a few of my customers went through, spent a small fortune on a "life-time full-access suite" and a month later you find out, after your computer crashed, the license was for that computer alone, requiring you to spent another small fortune to get the same on your new computer.
I actually ran into something similar recently. A few months ago, I updated the development software I use for DVD Catalyst to the latest version. Development software is quite pricey, about $1100, so I tend to hold off as long as I can with upgrading. If it works, it works, but the new version offered support for additional platforms (Mac OS X for example), so the upgrade was something I needed.
I haven't had the time to actually use it, however, last month the company released a new big-release version of the development software with the inclusion of other platforms I am interested in. They did release some of the new functionality in add-ons for my purchased update, but of course when they released their big new version, these were removed from the site.
So, now I am looking at paying another $500 (almost half the price for a full license) to upgrade software I paid for 2 months earlier. Of course when I called them about it, there wasn't anything they could do. I should have bought a "upgrade plan" to go along with it, which would have set me back another $300/year.
I'll likely upgrade to the new version, since I do want to do something for the additional platforms it offers support for, but I'm not pleased about it.
These kinds of tactics are things that annoy paying customers, and more often than not force them to look for alternative ways. In my developer-tool situation, there is added value, however, the time-frame since purchase and upgrade fee is a bit ridiculous, but with the other scenarios, Bad Piggies with big, full-screen ads after each level, effectively ruining the game experience, software tools which require more time to activate than it takes to go to the store, buy it and drive back, single-device restrictions, forcing you to re-purchase after you are already experiencing a big expense rto replace a computer, or (sorry, Bluray example) forcing you to update your Bluray player in order to be able to watch the latest, store-bought movie, these are all methods that people who obtain the pirated copies, for free, from the web, don't face at all.
So with MovieGallery Free, I'll likely end up implementing some restrictions. No ads, but of course with so many hours spent on development, I would like it a lot if people actually purchase, rather than sticking to using the free version.
With most of my time spent on MovieGallery2, I posted up one new article on the website,
Ultimate NOOK HD Video How To Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
which basically covers just about everything I can think of when it comes to putting movies on the NOOK HD. Of course the guide works for the NOOK HD+ as well.
Q & A:
Q: I picked up a NOOK color, and converted a few movies, but there isn't that much room for movies on the NOOK.
A: There are quite a few tricks you can use to reduce the file-size, but with many of them, you will experience quality issues.
This article provides some information on different tweaks in DVD Catalyst 4 that you can use to reduce the size of your video files quite a bit, without much quality-loss. If you are limited in storage, with a non-expandable device such as the Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7, Nexus 10 or don't can't/want to pick up a memorycard for movies just yet, it should help you add a couple of extra movies/tv shows on the memory you have available:
Tip : How to make your video files smaller | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Earlier this week, someone asked me about the Chromebook.
I'm not much of a "cloud" person. I love my gmail, but when it comes to storing files in an online location, I'm a bit reluctant. Of course I've already mentioned my thoughts on movies in the cloud in previous newsletters, in short that companies that provide access to these movies (Apple, Ultra Violet, Google Play, etc) can remove them whenever they see fit, but also storage lockers such as Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive etc are not the safest place for your important files.
When it comes to my data, the only one I trust is me, so I still rely on hard-backups, data backups on physical media, locked away, but accessible when needed.
The Chromebook is all about the cloud. The different models have some local storage, but with the entire OS based on a web browser, just about everything you do is web-based. It is fast and they are great for doing internet stuff, but I don't see much use beyond that with them. Granted, tablets are sort of similar, but at least those can work fully without an internet connection.
On the other hand, my wife has been using the iPad3 a lot more, and one of her biggest gripes is the touch keyboard. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard, but since it is separate, it gets a bit tricky to angle the iPad3 and use the keyboard at the same time, so I am considering the Chromebook for her for Christmas. She only uses the iPad for web stuff, looking up things on the web, actors on IMDB, stuff on Amazon etc. A laptop works ok, but battery life is a bit low, and of course the weight is a bit tricky for what she does, but a chromebook, fast startup time and just web, seems perfect for what she does.
eReader for Christmas:
Earlier today, my wife asked about eReaders. Her friend has been hinting towards getting a Kindle, because some people at her work have them, and she'd love to be able to read during breaks and such.
I'm fairly knowledgeable when it comes to tablets that can play videos, however, for the E-Ink-based eReaders, my knowledge doesn't get very far. Of course I know about the different models and can compare features and such, but actual usability is a bit different.
So, I'm asking for some ideas.
We are looking at something in the $100 price-range, and it will likely be a choice between a NOOK or a Kindle. The person who is receiving the gift doesn't have a credit card, so purchasing content will be a bit tricky. Likely it will involve something like getting a pre-paid card of some sort.
My wife has a preference towards the NOOK, because of the physical stores, and one being not too far out from where we live. Also the NOOK doesn't have ads.
If there are people who use eReaders on a regular basis (not the Kindle Fire/NOOK color types, but the E-Ink ones), could you share your experiences with them?
A bit of a short newsletter this time, not much in terms of tech news, and of course with the holiday yesterday, time for the newsletter was affected a bit.
For the people who did participate in Black Friday, I hope nothing bad happened, and that you managed to get the deals that you wanted to get.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and have a great weekend.
About DVD Catalyst:
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